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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Help Wanted

“Today is a backwards day,” Carrie Hanebutt announces at the start of the Business Advisory Council (BAC) meeting Oct. 17 in the offices of Goodwill Industries along Green River Road.

Hanebutt, a recruiter and human resources officer for Old National Bank, is the head of the BAC group, which works with Goodwill job placement clients on writing resumes, preparing for interviews, and other tasks during job searching. While interview practice days usually see BAC board members — recruiters and human resources staff from local businesses — mock interview clients for jobs, the meeting on Oct. 17 had a twist. The clients would be interviewing board members, each playing a different part.

“It allows clients to see different types of interviews,” says Hanebutt.

The BAC is just one part of the job placement program offered by the Evansville Goodwill Industries. Since the 1990s, those with disabilities referred by Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Counselors in Indiana and Kentucky have come to the organization looking for a step up in finding employment. The process of job placement has a few steps, says Goodwill Human Services Director Brandy Smith, but at the center of it all is a focus on the client and finding what fits best for them.

“Our first job is to figure out what [the client] is good at, what their limitations are,” she says. “The better we know our clients, the better we are at serving them.”

This discovery phase also includes activities for clients — Goodwill employment specialists work with community employers who allow clients to visit and even be placed into temporary jobs to gain work experience.

The next phase is where the BAC comes in — job readiness. Here, clients are exposed to interviews, constructing resumes, filling out applications, acquiring appropriate attire, and more. The cooperation and support from local businesses comes into play again during this phase, says Smith, and is important to bring clients knowledge that can help them in their job search.

“This type of board is extremely important to our community and, to my knowledge, I’m not aware of any others like it in the Tri-State,” says Hanebutt.

The final step for the client is active job searching. There is no timeline for the process, says Smith, but on average a client is employed after participating in the program between three to six months.

“We set goals as far as what we would like to have done,” she says. “We still follow along for an 180-day period [after employment] — we’re still going to be there to provide support.”

In 2017, Evansville’s Goodwill expanded their placement program with the addition of the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). Through a federal grant awarded to Goodwill International, Evansville’s organization was given a sub-grantee contract to provide job placement resources for individuals 55 years of age and older who hit income eligibility requirements.

The process for SCSEP is similar to the VR program, says Smith, but there are some differences. Ran through the federal Department of Labor, participants in this program acquire on-the-job training through a host agency, which typically is a nonprofit or government organization.

“The idea is to get them up-to-date employment skills, a work history, some references, and get them into community employment as well,” says Smith.

More expansion is in the works as well. Google.org and Goodwill Industries International Inc. recently announced a partnership to launch a Goodwill Digital Career Accelerator program, set to equip people with digital skills training via Goodwill. The Evansville Goodwill is set to receive $50,000 over the next three years for the program beginning in January 2019.

Evansville’s Goodwill already has begun to create awareness of the new program, including establishing a website (evvgoodwill.org/digitalskills) that links to the free curriculum and assessment content. In January, an on-site computer lab at the Green River Road offices will be built and accessible to the public to use for job searching, formal computer classes, creating resumes, and more.

“It’s very exciting to be paired up with a company like Google. This is an opportunity to serve more people and provide better services to the populations we serve now,” says Smith.

Last year, both Goodwill job placement programs totaled more than 300 participants.

Being able to develop a relationship with an employer and give that warm handoff from client to employer helps solidify the job process for the clients,” says Smith. “If employers are familiar with what we do and who we serve, that makes our jobs a whole lot easier.”

For Hanebutt, who joined the BAC board in 2010, working with the job placement program opened her eyes to what Goodwill does in regards to helping those with disabilities and limitations find work.

“When I joined the Goodwill Business Advisory Council in 2010, I really had no idea what exactly the board came together to discuss,” says Hanebutt. “Our community benefits greatly from this service. These clients are hardworking individuals who are extremely excited to be offered an opportunity.”

Fellow BAC board member Sara Schmitt of Custom Staffing Services, who was brought onto the board by a co-worker, reiterates the importance of educating local businesses on the program as well as clients.

“I hope members and companies understand what a person goes through when looking for a job. Whether that be how much help they need from others to be successful or, as an employer, how can you make the job search/application process easier,” she says.

However, just like Smith and the other staff members of the Goodwill program, everything for the BAC board members comes back to helping clients find the confidence and knowledge to land that job.

“Some clients have been out of the work force for an extended period, and they really listen and utilize the direction we provide,” says Hanebutt. “There are so many individuals in our community who just simply need guidance on even the tiniest of things. How do you expect them to succeed if no one raises their hand to say, ‘I’ll help you?’”

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